Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 9, 2018 Guest: Christina Greer; Glenn Kirschner; Ty Kelly; Nate McMurray, Nate McMurray, Jess McIntosh, Tim Dickinson, Barry McCaffrey
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Chuck, was that an admiral Akbar reference?
TODD: It`s a trap! It`s a trap!
MELBER: Happy to hear it. I`m a big "Star Wars" fan myself.
TODD: I am too. A lot of good bothens (ph) died to get you this information, Ari.
MELBER: I feel like we are going to endear ourselves to only part of our audience, but "Star Wars" over "Star Trek" any day of the week.
TODD: That`s true. God, yes. Goodbye.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Goodbye. And we begin with breaking news tonight.
We can report the feds are moving forward on two fronts. The first is in the Michael Cohen case in New York and the other is based on new information we have obtained here on THE BEAT from the Mueller probe itself. And I`m about to report it for the first time.
We begin with what appears bigger, the Michael Cohen case. The feds now as of this hour have access to everything that they can legally use that they seized in the now famous FBI raid on Michael Cohen back in April. This is important because as you may have heard for months, there has been a process where an independent lawyer reviews all of the material, the documents, the files, the famous tapes, and figures out what`s off limits.
Tonight for the first time, that review is done. We can tell you that. It means the feds can use everything that they have that hasn`t been declared privileged through that process. This brings them much closer to what they do next. If they find a bunch of material that, for example, could clear Michael Cohen, well, they would go forward in that direction.
That`s not what legal experts expect. Even Michael Cohen has talked about cooperation, which implicates this material and suggests that now that this process is over, that they move forward with what they found in the raid that Michael Cohen could alternatively face potential charges based on that evidence. So that`s number one. We bring that to you as the first news.
The other breaking news I can report exclusively which is that we have learned special counsel Bob Mueller has informed radio host and political activist, Randy Credico who is known for his past history and relationship with both Roger Stone and Julian Assange, Mueller has indicated that his office does intend to subpoena him to force an interview.
We, here at THE BEAT confirmed this from a direct source with knowledge of the special counsel`s outreach to Randy Credico`s attorney. That is brand new. If you watch this show and our reporting, some of this may be familiar because Credico was on this show last night and he explained the lead-up to all of this. He said publicly for the first time that he declined a request to participate in a voluntary interview that was made as a request when federal agents working for Mueller approached him in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Has Bob Mueller called you in to testify?
RANDY CREDICO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They did. They actually didn`t call me in, they actually showed up and they asked me to come in and do a personal voluntary interview, which I did not --
MELBER: Who is they that showed up?
CREDICO: Somebody from his investigation. They asked my lawyer if I would like to go down and do a voluntary interview, and he said no, you know. I didn`t get a subpoena. They asked me for a voluntary interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the news last night. The news right now is that Mueller, according to our reporting, has now since the interview aired reached out and said they do intend to subpoena Mr. Credico. They want to talk to him.
Now, we don`t know for a fact what they intend to talk to him about, but we have a pretty good idea of how he fits into this case. Number one, Credico is involved in an area of investigative interest because of his repeated contact publicly with Julian Assange. And then number two, something we also discussed in our interview, Credico has a long-time political history with Roger Stone.
Again, that doesn`t mean we have confirmed the topics of the interview and Mueller`s office doesn`t release that in advance, but we do have new information about a new person that they want to subpoena for an interview.
With that I turn to our guest tonight, Christina Greer, professor at Ford University and we are joined by two former federal prosecutors, John Flannery and Glenn Kirschner.
John, starting with you, what does it tell you as is so often the case in Trumpland, the lawyers are on TV, the lawyers are discussing their deliberations with each other on one of their radio shows. Last night this witness who has got ties as I have reported, Randy Credico discussed his history in the probe. And after that interview aired, we learned tonight, we`re reporting it exclusively for the first time that the office reached out during the interview and does want to subpoena him.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think Rudy has run out of tricks. And it`s pretty bad where they have to be in an echo chamber where the two of them who are lawyers representing Trump have to speak to each other as if they are having a distant organization conversation.
Attacking Mueller and saying what he is doing is wrong by Rudy Giuliani is really upside down. Giuliani was the Genghis khan (ph) of prosecutors. And now Mueller, who is by the book prosecutor, who doesn`t reveal what he is doing except in indictments and pleas and trials. He is being criticized by Rudy. I think that they are desperate.
MELBER: Let me direct you, also why do you think Mueller wants to subpoena Randy Credico? He sent these agents to New York and now he wants to subpoena him. Why is that of interest?
FLANNERY: I think he is trying to close the circle around Roger Stone. Anything can happen. Since Credico had access as you noted both to Assange and to Roger Stone, that`s an obvious line of questioning, I think. And he wants to see what he has and I think that he probably will get something, because the arrogance of these participants is amazing. What they say to each other that inculpates them and what one did with the other. So it also suggests that Roger Stone is perhaps in the batter`s box with maybe Trump junior and several other people.
MELBER: Well, you are using a fancy word as you often do, inculpate being a fancy word for makes them look really suspicious and guilty.
Glenn, on the same point, let me play for you the way that Mr. Credico publicly tried as so many witnesses have done lately, try to limit his exposure to other people that could figure in as subjects or targets. This was on the subject of Mr. Roger stone. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And you are in there as an associate, I`m not implying anything negative about you, but as a known associate of roger stone and Julian Assange.
CREDICO: Don`t say associating of Stone. I know Stone.
MELBER: What word would you use?
CREDICO: I would say someone that has worked with Stone before but not an associate.
MELBER: A former colleague?
CREDICO: No. I have worked on a campaign or two with Roger Stone in the past. I have known him 16 years I`ve known the guy.
MELBER: OK. I mean, it sounds like you are going up from associate, not down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, Ari, let me say something that you might not hear a lot of people say, but this is probably a good thing for Randy Credico that he has been subpoenaed. Why do I say that? Because if he were a target of the investigation, it`s very unlikely that Bob Mueller would subpoena him because there`s a department of justice policy that says we -- I was a prosecutor for 30 years. We don`t subpoena targets of the investigation. Why? Because they have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination so we don`t hand them a subpoena, which is a court order, force them to testify before the grand jury and incriminate themselves.
So what we do, though, as prosecutors is we invite targets in for voluntary interviews because they are not compelled to appear. So they are not - we are not placing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in jeopardy. So I think in a strange way Randy Credico may count himself lucky that he has subpoenaed.
FLANNERY: No, I disagree.
MELBER: John Flannery disagrees so much that he could barely listen to your answer. I have got to get around the horn. So, John, briefly, your rebuttal.
FLANNERY: My rebuttal briefly, is all you have to do is tell them they are a target and, therefore, they have sufficient information to indict the person. And once they know that, they still can decide to go in or not. The Fifth Amendment is not limited to targets. Anybody, including Mr. Trump instead of this dance he is going through, he can say I`m going to take the fifth. He just doesn`t take it for political reasons.
So if a person is known to be a target and he is told he is a target, that`s the end of the obligation of justice. And these interviews are a mistake in my opinion but that`s the southern district of New York method, or it was when I was there.
MELBER: Well, I`m going to let Glenn get back in a minute. But Christina, I want to play Roger Stone, who according to Glenn`s analysis, would look to be in a more difficult spot. Because unlike what we are reporting tonight about Credico, according to Stone`s lawyer, he has not been asked for an interview which looks more like he could be a target and he is pushing back. Here he was in an interview last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I`m also mindful that any prosecutor`s ability to squeeze underlings to get them to compose testimony against a bigger fish. I have not been contacted by the special counsel`s office. I have made it abundantly clear that there`s no circumstances under which I would testify against the President. I would not rule out cooperating if they think I can be helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR, FORD HAM UNIVERSITY: So this is not the President`s first rodeo when it comes to lawyers and depositions, and it`s clearly not Roger Stone`s either. But this one feels different. And you can tell that they are sensing that something is off, right? As long as Rudy Giuliani was in the southern district, prosecuted lots of mobsters, we`re not dealing with mobsters per se. We are not dealing with real estate agents in queens. What the President is going to try to do is make himself the hero and the victim.
MELBER: Are you saying, Dorothy, we are not in Queens anymore?
GREER: We are not in Queens anymore, OK. So we are in the big leagues and this is something the President doesn`t understand. So as he has been a grifter and a snake oil salesman for his entire career, he is realizing that this may -- this last con, this last grift, may have been a bridge too far. And so, Mueller has been systematic, methodical, and as our previous guests have said, he is being very strategic.
We have seen also in the past few years oftentimes the way to get to the biggest fish is to go through their son as well. We are seeing it with Collins. We are seeing it with Shelly Silver in New York. We have seen it several times.
And so I think the President, as much as he`s trying to win in the court of public opinion and he has a solid base and obviously this is great red meat to say look at these Democrats, look at these liberals sort of going after me for something that, you know, is intangible and, you know, we haven`t done anything wrong. Maybe if we did, it`s not that big of a deal. The goal post keeps changing.
It`s highly problematic because you are seeing the President get a little more nervous. You see these 6:00 a.m. tweets, these midnight tweets. The fact that this witch hunt keeps coming up in his, you know, desperation pretty soon. And so I think what a lot of Americans fear is that in his efforts to self-preserve himself, he might engage us in certain international affairs that would harm the entire nation and/or world.
MELBER: And that goes to the stress.
And Glenn, general McCaffrey is joining us later tonight. He says he doesn`t think Donald Trump has ever operated under this level of stress and that can account for things that are actually quite scary.
To Christina`s point, the "Associated Press" and other publications have talked about the concerned about Don Junior. Trump watching the courtroom proceedings and fearing that Donald Trump Jr. could at some point be the one at trial.
And Glenn, only Donald Trump and to some extent perhaps his closest family members know what they did and whether that`s a trial that would end in exoneration or something else.
KIRSCHNER: Yes, I read "The New York Times" article today with great interest. And it does seem like the insiders are reporting that the President is really stewing and steaming and very concerned about the exposure that Don Junior might have.
And listen, nobody is going to make light of that because, you know, as parents we can understand that we are concerned for our children and we want the best for them. I do think that the President, however, may also find himself someday as a co-defendant with his son at defense counsel table. Now, I don`t know if Bob Mueller --
MELBER: Do you think that would be before or after the term of his presidency?
KIRSCHNER: Well, Ari, I don`t know that bob Mueller will take the narrow path to indicting a President that I think is arguably available. He would have to seek an exception to the OLC memo that sets out as a policy matter that the department of justice doesn`t believe a sitting President can be indicted.
MELBER: You are saying something significant and you are saying as a legal matter. And I take your analysis to be not that you don`t like Donald Trump or you disagree with his policies, but as a very seasoned federal prosecutor, you believe there is potential joint legal criminal exposure for him and his son.
KIRSCHNER: I do. And a pathway to get there even while he is sitting. But Bob Mueller might not want to go near that third rail. Instead he might split the baby. He might return co-conspirator indictments against the others for whom he has found sufficient evidence of criminality and maybe just author a report to Congress about his findings concerning any potential criminal conduct by the President. Or as we have all see and done before, albeit back in 1974, he could also include the President in a conspiracy indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator.
MELBER: Let me get John, and take a quick listen, John, to Rudy Giuliani`s argument that you don`t need an interview if you already know the answers. Here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: He knows the answers to every question that he wants to ask. He is going to ask him, did you tell Comey to go easy on Flynn? The President will say, no, I didn`t. Hey, Bob, you know it. Why do you want to get him under oath? Do you think we are fools? You want to get him under oath because you want to trap him into perjury. We are not going to let you do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: John, you know this is an old southern argument, they call it kind of a trap house argument for perjury trapping the President.
FLANNERY: Yes, there`s a big flaw there, which is he is saying - he is in a way admitting that what Trump is going to say is a lie. He is saying that if he says, oh, I didn`t tell him that, putting him in conflict under oath as opposed to talking to the media that that would be perjury. Well, so why shouldn`t he be prosecuted for perjury? It`s not a trap.
And the same thing, why don`t we ask him, he put his own son at risk by telling that story that he wrote about, oh, they were just talking about adoption. He has put his son at risk by telling that lie, perhaps convincing his son to do it. So I have crocodile tears for how he cares about his son. If he cared about his son, we would never put him in that position in the first place.
MELBER: Crocodile tears in the trap house.
Christina, keep it together, please. This is a serious news program.
GREER: Well. Listen, we also know that this is a man who is a pathological liar, right. We know that he lies about the number of floors on his apartments. We know that he lies about how much he spent to build, you know, said building. He lies about how many tenants he has. I mean, this is someone who should never be under oath, right. And we have seen sort of snippets of his depositions where he can`t answer questions because he doesn`t have his glasses or he hasn`t read it or he`s just flipping through pages and he is stalling.
MELBER: Which suggests he knows how much he`s lying because he gets careful when he`s under heat.
MELBER: I got to fit in a quick break. You stay.
Let me fit in a quick break. Christina Greer stays.
John Flannery and Glenn Kirschner, thank you both for your legal analysis. Very interesting stuff.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
KIRSCHNER: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, there is fallout from the secret tapes of Devin Nunes obtained by MSNBC and how he wants to kneecap the Mueller probe.
Also news on the indicted Republican lawmaker who vows to stay on the ballot. Another BEAT exclusive, an interview with the Democrat running to replace him. That`s tonight on our show.
And I have a breakdown on the NRA, dark money and why it matters more than ever.
And that`s not all. As I mentioned, a retired general who thinks Donald Trump`s idea for a space force is a quote "nincompoop (ph) idea" joins me as well.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Devin Nunes is Donald Trump`s biggest congressional defender on the Russia probe. He is now under fire not from critics but for his own words. Nunes caught on a secret tape first reported by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC admitting that he prejudges the Mueller probe, that he sees house Republicans as quote "the only ones who can defend Trump regardless of what evidence or crimes Mueller finds."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If Sessions won`t unrecuse and Mueller won`t clear the President, we are the only ones, which is really the danger. I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nunes was already discredited as a Russia investigator over ethics charges that he was coordinating with the White House. He claimed to temporary recuse himself from running the probe.
Now what`s new here is that Nunes is bluntly admitting how he views his partisan role. He is laying out a new calendar for when he wants to kneecap the Mueller probe and assuring donors there is still a plan to impeach Mueller`s boss, Rod Rosenstein. So listen to this part because he says the key is simply that it kicks in after November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: The Senate would have to drop everything they are doing and start to -- start with impeachment on Rosenstein. And then you take the risk of not getting Kavanaugh confirmed. So, it`s not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It`s a matter of -- it`s a matter of timing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is a major claim for the Republican`s Intel chairman to make. That a plan to abuse congressional power to undercut a national security investigation is just a matter of timing. Nunes is laying out a strategy that is one part Richard Nixon, one part Wyclef Gene who was ballad (ph) proposing that Republicans who a prematurely shutdown Mueller should hold back for now and basically be gone until November and then they can lash out at the probe after confirming their Supreme Court justice handpicked by Trump.
Now Nunes did not know his words were being recorded when he was say serenading the GOP faithful at that private event. Basically assuring them I`ll be gone until November. I will be gone until November. Tell my donors I will be gone till November.
Now, Nunes has not retracted this plan. In fact today his spokesman called the remarks that were caught on tape quote "routine observations."
Now that`s just false. There`s nothing routine about admitting that you plan to engineer a first impeachment of a DOJ official overseeing a special counsel in all of American history. It is suspicious and telling that Nunes wants to shut down this probe before even finding out if, say, Americans are charged for conspiracy or espionage or colluding with foreigners.
And that brings us back to a final line from "Gone Until November," which may apply more to Mueller than Nunes. Commit treason, then I will have a reason to hunt you down.
Now, we don`t know if more crimes will be charged, but that would certainly be a crime that warrants hunting before or after November.
Back with me is Christina Greer as part of our serious news coverage. And also with me is Ty Kelly, a former federal prosecutor and former DOJ lawyer where she worked for, guess who, Rod Rosenstein. Thank you both for being here.
TY KELLY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you.
MELBER: Ty, when you look at this plan as stated in Nunes` own words, how appropriate would this be given the rationale that he states?
KELLY: Well, look, you said it best, right? I mean, there has never been an impeachment of a deputy attorney general. I think there`s been eight successful impeachments in the history of any brought by the House.
But what`s more interesting from a legal perspective is that impeachment proceedings are based on a run-of-the-mill subpoena dispute.
KELLY: I mean, subpoenas are negotiated, narrowed, argued about every single day. In my criminal defense practice, I probably talk about one every single week, about the scope and the breadth. You hear the saying the kitchen sink and that is part of the process, to try to narrow the scope, try to figure out the timing, try to figure out how appropriate it is and how many times you have to meet with people and it`s a really normal part of the process. So for that to have escalated into impeachment is legally more the significant part.
MELBER: And so there`s the idea, as you put it so well, that this isn`t a rational or meritorious basis to do, such a historic impeachment. There`s the extra negative evidence that Nunes is outing himself as seen this purely politically which appears inappropriate. Then there is the question where even if they don`t pull it off, does this get inside Mr. Rosenstein`s head. Does this affect him as he has to carry out his nonpartisan duties? And since you worked with him, we are curious about your input on that. To add into the mix, let`s take a look at one of the times we saw him battle back against some of these partisan questions at a hearing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am the deputy attorney general of the United States. OK? I`m not the person doing the redacting. Your statement that I am personally keeping information from you, trying to conceal --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re the paw boss, Mr. Rosenstein.
ROSENSTEIN: That`s correct of the. And my job is to make sure that we respond to your concerns. We have, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the House of Representatives is going to say otherwise.
ROSENSTEIN: But your use of this to attack me --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you -
ROSENSTEIN: Mr. Chairman, may the witness be permitted to answer the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not personal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you think these efforts even if they don`t remove him could impact the way he does his job or intimidate him?
KELLY: No, absolutely not. Rod Rosenstein is rule of law. He takes his job as seriously as anyone. And I think that he will continue to do everything he can to do his job with integrity and to move forward without the distraction and anything else going on in any sort of impeachment process or any other distraction.
MELBER: Christina, your view of this, we have covered why it seems legally inappropriate. The politics of this at a fund-raiser as a midterm message for the Republicans.
GREER: It`s really dangerous. And obviously, on this show and other shows people have compared the moment we are in to Watergate. And I don`t think that there`s a comparison. I think that we are much deeper than that and a much more crucial time period.
During Watergate, we at least had Republicans who said there`s something not right about this particular president, even though he is in our party and we will actually need to do what the constitution implores us to do which is uphold the separation of powers, right, and serve as a check on the executive branch. We are not seeing that now.
And this is exactly what George Washington warned us about in 1796 in his farewell address. He talks about hyper partisanship and parties and how it will erode at sort of very delicate fabric of American democracy. And we are seeing just how fragile our democracy is because Trump is leaning on the line of not just legality, but what it means to be an American.
MELBER: You are making me want to go read that George Washington speech. Will I feel better or worse?
GREER: I don`t know how you will feel, but you can sit in on my class on Tuesdays this semester.
MELBER: I feel like we get to sit in on your class when you come here and bless us with your political science. But that`s an interesting one and maybe we`ll revisit it.
GREER: Yes. I implore your viewers to look it over.
MELBER: Fantastic, it sounds good. And you won`t predict our emotions, that`s fine.
And Ty Kelly, someone who has worked on these issues and with Rod Rosenstein himself, thank you very much as well.
Straight ahead in 30 seconds, indicted Trump ally, Congressman Chris Collins, says he is staying in the race despite these new charges of lying to the feds. His challenger is here when we are back in 30.
MELBER: Indicted Trump ally, Congressman Chris Collins, vows to stay in his race after being charged by the feds yesterday for insider trading and lying to the FBI. We are looking at a party that is increasingly defined by Trumpism and its critics say that means criminality. The President, of course, is under investigation and hasn`t been charged with anything but there are many other people that he picked that are his closest aides who are in serious legal trouble.
There is Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, who flipped and pled guilty. There is Paul Manafort on trial right now. He was number one on the campaign. And then there`s the former fixer, Michael Cohen. The news tonight being that the feds have gone through all his stuff. Then there`s the wider swamp questions. Cabinet members like Scott Pruitt forced to resign over many ethics scandals. And then of course now there`s the Congress.
Could Trumpism be a problem or a solution for Republicans?
There are signs that point in many directions. 538 says scandal-ridden incumbents have beaten their challengers on average by nine points. New York`s most red district where Trump won by 25 points is the home of indicted Republican Chris Collins. And he was expected to sail on to his win. Now the Cook political report says they moved the race from solid Republican to likely Republican. Translation, an indictment is not turning this race yet.
So we go to the heart of the matter. Democratic challenger Nate McMurray and a former Clinton campaign aide and political strategist in her own right, Jess McIntosh as well.
Nate, is your view that you are now in a race where your opponent has been indicted but if you tell the truth according to the politics and the polling, you are still likely to lose?
NATE MCMURRAY (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: No, I think we`re going to win. I think that Mr. Collins does not represent the people of NY 27. These are hard-working people. They deserve hard-working honest leadership. And I think there`s going to be a backlash in November. I think the people here are embarrassed of Mr. Collins and they want a change.
MELBER: Do you think he is guilty?
MCMURRAY: I think this represents a series of bad behavior by Mr. Collins. This isn`t news. What we saw yesterday has long been in the public record for over a year what he has done. And it represents a sign of the times and a sign of his behavior. And to be honest with you, I`m shocked he was endorsed in the first place.
MELBER: You know, what I got to do when - you know what I got to do when you don`t answer the question, right?
MCMURRAY: Go ahead, answer --.
MELBER: I got to ask it again. It`s a timely process. Do you think he`s guilty?
MCMURRAY: I think we have a rule law in this country and he has to go to trial would do. I think he`s guilty personally --
MELBER: Do you think he`s guilty?
MCMURRAY: Indeed I do, indeed I do.
MELBER: And so as part of your message to voters in this district that even if they prefer the Republican Party on certain issues, they certainly shouldn`t prefer someone who happens to be a Republican but is also potentially a felon.
I think that`s correct and I think that it`d be hard for an honest hard- working American person to vote for this man.
MELBER: Jess, I turn to you and -- as I have on other occasions when we benefit from your analysis in the Trump era, I say, what are we talking about?
JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I also think he`s guilty.
MELBER: You do. And I also understand the rule of law and I am not taking that position, but as a political matter what are we talking about when it`s still likely incumbent with this much smoke?
MCINTOSH: So the reason why I am so confident in saying that I think he`s guilty before he`s gone to trial is precisely because of what we were just discussing. This is a pattern of behavior. There shouldn`t be a congressman coming in being the largest shareholder in an Australian pharmaceutical company who then sets up some weird Mary Kay pyramid scheme to sell stocks from that company to his fellow Republican colleagues and his own staffers. That behavior is already wrong and suspect enough that making the leap from that to insider trading is just sort of a hop over a very small ravine right there. So it doesn`t even matter that we have him on tape seeing the e-mail and rushing to the cell phone to call his son six times.
I mean, the behavior could not be any more guilty, but it`s a bigger problem than just Chris Collins and I think it`s going to affect the entire Republican Party right now. Americans are understanding that too many Republicans are in office right now too personally enrich themselves. Whether it`s through tax cuts or through supporting special interests or through more explicit measures like some Republicans seem to have not realized that you`re supposed to do that very quietly and not loudly use your public office to delude yourself. Chris Collins in the Trump family frankly being the biggest examples of that. They seem to view their office as a way of making money for themselves. And I mean I`m a New Yorker like an indictment in upstate New York is not the same as an indictment in Staten Island.
In Upstate New York, they`re not going to like that. They`re not going to like the fact that they voted him in so he could represent them and instead he turned around and tried to make money off of a weird Australian pharmaceutical company. That`s not what they were sending him to Congress for.
MELBER: And Nate, take a look at Collins endorsing Trump. He was the first endorser. Here he was at the RNC convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: I have the honor of seconding the nomination of Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What`s your message to Republican voters in your very red district who still like that he did that and like Trump but may have second thoughts about him with regard to corruption?
MCMURRAY: Well, a lot of people love Donald Trump in this district. There is no -- that is a fact. And they love him because he said he`s going to represent the forgotten man. Now that`s why Mr. Collins clings to him like a life preserver because nobody believes that Mr. Robert -- Mr. Collins represents Western New York. He was arrested in his penthouse in New York City for selling stock to his friends in Capitol Hill. This is insane. This is someone who needs to be removed immediately or resigned. He doubled down yesterday. It`s a tragic thing for our region.
MELBER: A very interesting to go right to the heart of the district that has been on everyone`s mind since that big news broke scandalizing the political world yesterday. Nate McMurray, thanks for coming on THE BEAT to tell your side of the story and Jess McIntosh thank you as always. Coming up retired four-star general warning Donald Trump`s behavior is alarming and illogical. But first what Bob Mueller is learning about these mysterious connections between Russia, the Trump campaign, and the NRA. We have exclusive reporting next.
MELBER: Now to our BEAT special report tonight, on a major policy challenge in our politics today. How does our expensive election system potentially make us more vulnerable to foreign espionage? This is not a partisan issue or one concerning only Russian interference although of course, that is one way we are seeing the problem exposed right now. Consider how millions of dollars made their way from Russia at the United States through one of the most powerful political groups in America and one which swung into action for Donald Trump, the NRA, which dropped 31 million on Trump, that`s more than double its investment in the previous GOP nominee, Mitt Romney.
Now, the NRA has every right to increase its spending and its long known for supporting conservative and GOP candidates. But recent reports also show a long-term effort by Russia to infiltrate the organization, all of this predating the Trump campaign and the questions have gone into overdrive now that federal prosecutors indicted a Russian Maria Butina for using conservative and gun rights groups to try to infiltrate and impact U.S. politics. That probe is separate from Bob Mueller and it`s another sign that the legal and national security efforts to counter Russian interference are significant, are not a witch hunt, and are much broader than 2016 and however, you feel about it.
Now tonight, we know this is not the first time that experts have sought to get to the bottom of this vulnerability in the context of the NRA. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a critic of big money in politics writ large was back pushing the NRA all the way years ago and he told -- the group ultimately told him that since 2015 it had about $2,500 from people associated with Russian addresses and they played down the whole problem by noting these were routine payments from about 23 people for membership dues or magazine subscriptions and that does sound small.
Also under the fairly weak federal transparency laws, the NRA only needs to tell the IRS privately about the identities of donors who give over $5,000 a year. But even that little rule, well they`ve been ducking that requirement. Another public official took on that problem with the NRA, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, she is now a U.S. Senator and she was pushing the NRA and 2015 for failing to follow rules and pony up a list of financial information three years running from 2012 to 2014. In fact, the state of California now labels the NRA as delinquent it appears that the tax filings in California for 2015 and the critical year of 2016 they`re incomplete as well.
So what is the NRA`s response to these holes which are looking more suspicious giving the new reports and pressure? We ask them directly for comment, we have not heard back and then it gets worse. The Trump administration has now changed the rule so that the NRA won`t have to report any of these donations to the IRS in the future. This is what campaign finance reformers call a big dark money problem. Now, that is the transparency side. That`s what we would all see as citizens or journalists or yadda-yadda.
On the investigative side, Bob Mueller can subpoena the NRA s tax records and legal experts tell us it`s highly likely Mueller already has them from at least the years around the election based on the kind of moves he`s been making. So it does go back to the famous phrase follow the money and we also know some of that money was spent as far back as 2013. That`s when NRA leadership jumped at the chance to visit Moscow for a talk about gun policy. You can see the NRA s former president, former because before all these reports about Russian money came out there was a sudden leadership shake-up that sends Ollie North to lead the group. Here they were in Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NRA has five million members who worked with everyone both in the United States and of course here in Russia. Over the course of the last three years, I`ve hosted your Senator Alexander Torshin at the National Rifle Association annual meeting.
There are people that are more alike with Americans than Russians. We`re hunters, we`re shooters, we do all things, and we value the same type of things and we need to work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That former NRA President was talking about Senator Alexander Torshin, a Russian oligarch linked to Putin who was able to actually get to Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA event in the middle of the campaign Spring 2016 which brings us back to that new indictment. As Rachel Maddow has reported Torshin was behind the very implausible Russian gun group that they now indicted Maria Butina used for her influence campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Now, the right to bear arms is purportedly a gun rights group founded by a senior member of Putin`s political party which is called United Russia. What`s funny about that whole concept is that Vladimir Putin and his party United Russia, they don`t actually support gun rights in Russia. So why did they create this group that purports to promote that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Putin doesn`t support gun rights any more than he supports free elections to replace him. So our question tonight was this quite obvious front group a trick that was pulled on the NRA or a trick that the NRA was in on and does the NRA`s multi-year efforts to hide their donors reflect a kind of an innocent reflexive secrecy for no reason which is possible or alternatively is it an effort to keep all this money in the dark because it would look way worse under the lights. We turn now to an expert who has been all over this, Contributing Editor to Rolling Stone Tim Dickinson, has investigated the NRA`s dark money. Your view of what we know now.
TIM DICKINSON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ROLLING STONE: Well, it`s remarkable. We in April did a report about Butina and Torshin and their efforts to infiltrate the NRA over about a decade and since we came out with that publication, Torshin is now subject to sanctions and Maria Butina is in prison without -- in jail without bail. So -- but I think you hit the nail on the head. Is this -- was this a concerted -- did the Russians pull the wool over the eyes of the NRA or were the NRA -- was the NRA sort of a willing participant in this? And that`s I think the open question that we`re left within this Butina saga.
But it is really interesting that right after Butina was raided, the NRA has a very orderly plan of succession and they disrupted that entirely booting out the guy who had been in Russia with the NRA sort of elite money raisers with Butina and Torshin and then replaced him with Oliver North so it`s looking a bit like a cover-up in that regard.
MELBER: Well that`s why we`re so curious about all your deep reporting on this because legally there are many cases that turn on people being stupid. And at a distance people think there`s a master conspiracy and in fact people were stupid they were duped, they were greedy but the NRA is such a sophisticated political operation and it may be international --
DICKINSON: You give them too much credit.
MELBER: Well, that`s what I`m asking you, international in their ambition. Did they have no idea that in an authoritarian country like Russia, there`s not a lot of people rooting for you know, gun rights to help challenge Putin?
DICKINSON: Well, I mean, they had a really high suspension of disbelief and I think this attractive young Russian who was in charge of this group was part of that. I mean, you look at unindicted co-conspirator alleged Paul Erickson, the 50-year-old who was allegedly in a relationship with this woman and working with her. It just seems like a lot of these people got in deep and over their heads and sort of got on a slippery slope and I don`t think they quite knew where it was headed. But --
MELBER: So you`re saying -- you`re using a kind of an artistic term suspension of disbelief so it`s a kind of a cross between die hard and a honeypot situation and people just put out of their mind the fact that it doesn`t seem like it`d be a real group.
DICKINSON: Yes, I think people, they wanted to believe that the Russians were in fact on our side, on their side, that the Russians are promoting gun rights, you, me same-same. We all have the same interests.
MELBER: And I just want to be clear today. If that`s right what you`re saying, that would be good for the NRA legally because whatever one thinks of their politics that would be that they didn`t try to do anything wrong per se.
DICKINSON: Well, it`s unclear right, because then they -- then they were - - they had their top money people in Moscow meeting with top Russian policymakers and perhaps you know, oligarchs. And so did they end up and then taking money willingly or through some sort of conduit. I mean, it could have been an LLC like Trump used to pay off porn stars. The same kind of vehicle could have easily brought money into the NRA in a way that wouldn`t have a Russian address on it so the you know, the NRA`s denials on this stuff are very -- either you wouldn`t trust those much farther and you could throw them.
MELBER: Right. And that`s what we noted in our reporting and their failure to address even the basics of this. If they have a good other side of the story why not put it out. And yet some of your reporting reflects the idea that they may have been duped and that alone might just simply be embarrassing. There`s a lot more here. You`ve been a big leader on it so I`m glad you`re willing to come on THE BEAT and tell us about it.
DICKINSON: My pleasure, any time.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Up ahead, my special guest spent 55 years of service in the Armed Forces and he says he is very alarmed right now. That`s next.
MELBER: This is not normal and we`ll show you some bizarre headlines about how the Trump Administration is approaching the military. Trump secretly outsourcing Veterans Affairs decisions to three buddies from Mar-a-Lago. Now a new push for a "Space Force" to have a military in space and now he`s also asking supporters politically to vote on what the logo should be. I am joined by retired four-star Army General Barry McCaffrey. He has spoken out this week and said he is looking at Trump as basically behavior that is alarming and illogical and 55 years of service in the Armed Forces he`s never encountered something quite like this. With that in mind general, let`s take a quick look at Mike Pence`s discussion of the Space Force.
BARRY MCCAFFREY, RETIRED FOUR-STAR ARMY GENERAL: By the way --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space. Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already and the United States will not shrink from this challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And we didn`t hear you before so tell us your thoughts on the Space Force and then whatever else you wanted to get to, sir.
MCCAFFREY: Right. And Ari, quick correction, I was 32 years in the Armed Forces and 55 years total service civil government, the military and business. But look this -- to turn to the Space Force, this is an interesting intellectual concept. It`s been debated endlessly. It`s actually a very bad idea. It`s expensive. It will take a decade or more to unravel space operations which are built into all the services, and at the end of the day, I don`t think Congress is going to pay for it anyway.
So Secretary Mattis had opposed it before, now there`s some aspects of it could probably be useful and we`ve also got some concerns I might add on international foreign policy. We don`t want space militarized and we sign treaties to that effect. So there`s a lot of issues of this and I think it`s actually a nonsense idea and probably won`t happen at the end of the day.
MELBER: And what moved you to speak out and say that this is some of the worst you`ve seen as you put it in your -- in your over 50 years of total public service?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know there`s just a lot of statements now that I could deliberately choose the words rather than lying of separation from the truth. When the President comes back from Singapore and says the North Korean nuke threat is now gone, the sort of the rudeness and uncivil behavior to foreign leaders, our allies to the abuse of domestic critics calling them you know, sort of high school name, stupid and dumb ass, those sort of thing. I`ve never seen anything like it. If an Army battalion commander was acting this way, we take them out of command. I`ve never seen that business. I`ve never -- I`ve been in three White Houses both the Bush administration`s and the Clinton administration. I`ve ever seen anyone act that way. It`s alarming.
MELBER: And on Veterans Affairs?
MCCAFFREY: Well, poor Veterans Affairs, the second biggest Department of government, it`s vitally important to the -- so you know pick a number you believe, 16 million veterans. If you get in the system it`s actually tremendous medical care but it`s unwieldy, it`s had bad leadership at the top. The poor president`s been jerking the tiller on this thing. Obviously, they`re allowing private business interest is now to intervene. There were some political actors that were sent over from the White House for the last V.A. Secretary. Congress has got to step in. This is not a partisan operation. This is support of veterans they need steady, wise leadership that stays in place for ten years to try and fix it.
MELBER: Yes, and it`s so concerning especially given how much time has been spent talking about this problem. We`ve seen candidates run on it and these reports suggest not a public interest prioritization there. General Barry McCaffrey, thank you as always and we will be right back.
MELBER: We broke some news, we talked about the news but we`re out of time for news. That is THE BEAT, "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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